If you watched a lot of movie or TV westerns you may have heard the term; “. . . hitch up the wagon.” Well these days, before we can hitch up our wagons, or trailers, we have to have the right hitch on our “horse” or tow vehicle. What do you mean the right kind of hitch? Isn’t a hitch a hitch? Uh, no, as a matter of fact there are as many different types of trailer hitches as there are trailers and ways to use them so let’s go over a few of them.
This diagram gives you a brief overview of a few hitch types and what they are used for. The "WC" in the chart stands for "Weight Carrying," when used with a basic ball mount and coupler. The "WD" ratings are higher and those are the limits if you use a Weight Distributing ball mount. "TW" stands for Tongue Weight, which is the most weight you can place on the coupler based on a fully loaded trailer. These are the most commonly used trailer hitches, you can also find both heavier and lighter duty options.
NOTE: Always keep in mind that just because the hitch is rated to haul a certain amount of weight, doesn’t mean your tow vehicle can handle the weight. Hitches do NOT increase your capacity to tow extra weight. Consult your owner’s manual for your vehicles capacity and never exceed that amount. It’s a “weakest link” scenario.
Most trucks and SUVs today have some sort of hole in the center of the bumper that will accept a tow ball. This is the most basic, and lightest duty, form of trailer hitch. As long as you don’t exceed 100 pounds of tongue weight and 1,000 pounds of trailer weight, this is fine. A ball and a little wiring is all you need. You just have to be absolutely sure you don’t exceed the vehicle manufacturer’s capacity recommendations.
If sooner or later you need to tow different trailers with different size couplers, a light duty solution is the bumper hitch like this one made by Curt. This hitch bolts to your vehicle's bumper and provides a standard 2” ball mount receiver and attachment points for the safety chains. Don’t confuse this, however, for a regular receiver style hitch. You are still limited to the weight bearing capacity of your tow vehicle’s bumper. And not every vehicle can use this type of hitch.
Class 1-2 Receivers
This is a light duty receiver type trailer hitch that is generally only used on passenger cars and light weight, crossover SUVs. This type of hitch uses a smaller 1-¼” receiver tube for the ball mount. Class 1 hitches are rated to tow trailers up to a maximum of 2,000 pounds with 200 pounds of tongue weight, and Class 2 can handle 3,500 pound trailers with 350 pounds of tongue weight. These hitches do not increase the total weight that a given vehicle may be able to tow.
Class 3 Receivers
This is the most common trailer hitch found on full size pick-ups and SUVs. If yours came from the factory with a towing package installed, you probably have a Class 3 trailer hitch. Class 3 receivers can handle up to 8,000 pound trailers and 800 pounds of tongue weight with a weight carrying ball mount, or up to 12,000 pounds and 1,200 pounds of tongue weight with a weight distributing hitch. This most likely exceeds the towing capacities of your vehicle, so a Class 3 hitch will not be the limiting factor for just about anything you want to tow.
Class 4-5 Receivers
These are the Mac-Daddy, heaviest-duty trailer hitches that can be installed at the rear of a tow vehicle. A Class 4 weight carrying trailer hitch can carry 10,000 pounds and 1,000 pounds of tongue weight, or up to 12,000 and 1,200 pounds if you use a weight distributing trailer hitch. Class 5 receivers can handle up to 14,000 pounds and 1,400 pounds tongue weight. To tow anything larger than that will require an Xtra Duty, Industrial Duty receiver hitch, or, a 5th wheel or gooseneck hitch.
Fifth Wheel Hitch
You’ve all seen these mounted in the bed of pick-up trucks, usually duallies, and they are very similar in design to the hitches used by commercial 18-wheelers. Fifth wheel trailer hitches can handle trailers that range from 16,000 to 30,000 pounds and up to 5,000 pounds of pin weight (tongue weight), depending on the design of the hitch, and the rating by the manufacturer. You see 5th wheel hitches most commonly on large travel trailers and car haulers. This is because they are very stable and easy to maneuver. And this is the only type of hitch where the coupling device is part of the tow vehicle and not the trailer.
Like a 5th wheel hitch, a gooseneck hitch mounts in the bed of your pick-up over the rear axle. This type of hitch is most commonly used for livestock trailers, car and toy haulers, and industrial or commercial trailers. A gooseneck hitch can handle up to about 30,000 pound trailers with 6,000 pounds of tongue weight. Some gooseneck hitches can be folded down out of the way when not in use to enable normal loading of the truck bed.
Weight Distributing Hitch
A weight distributing hitch increases the towing capacity and stability over a weight carrying trailer hitch. Sometimes called a “load equalizing hitch” a weight distributing trailer hitch spreads the tongue weight of the trailer over all four wheels of the tow vehicle.
Any vehicle with a Class 3-5 receiver can use a weight distributing hitch. The key difference between weight distributing hitch and a weight carrying hitch is the long rods called "spring bars" that exert leverage on your tow vehicle's frame, transferring some of the tongue weight to the vehicle's forward wheels. This prevents heavy trailers with high tongue weights from lifting the front wheels and overloading the rear wheels. Weight distributing hitches can also accept the addition of sway control bars.
Front Mount Hitch
Finally we come to the front mount trailer hitch. This hitch mounts, obviously, to the front of the vehicle. Front mount trailer hitches are extremely handy for launching a boat at the local boat ramp. These are available in most weight classes and can be mounted on almost any pick-up, van, or SUV.
The leading manufacturer of trailer hitches discussed here is Curt Manufacturing and that is the primary brand sold and installed by Chux Trux. This is because Curt hitches are built right here in the USA, install correctly, and are designed to be tough and safe. They may cost a little more but you get high value that comes with that quality. You can find cheaper hitches and have them installed by less experienced people but the techs at Chux Trux are very highly trained and after all, what’s your safety worth?
If you live in the Kansas City area, Chux Trux can usually get you fixed up with a Class 3 hitch, for about $219, fully installed, within 48 hours of notification. For a slight extra charge, Curt makes hitches powder-coated in custom colors. (Curt is the only manufacturer that provides this.)
Chux Trux stocks more hitches than any of their competition and they have a hitch for almost any vehicle on the road. So give Chux a call today and get the best trailer hitches along with expert installation and service.
By: Chris Ripper